Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Palestinian Suffering: Putting the Blame Where It Belongs

Has anyone else noticed this? There is a real sea change in the discussion of Palestinian suffering in the wake of recent events in Lebanon and Gaza. Yes, I know the expression 'sea change' is grossly overused, but I do mean it in the way Shakespeare first used it: a truly profound change.

For years various Israeli and pro-Israel writers, myself included, have pointed out that the Palestinians could have had a prosperous, independent state years ago. We have pointed out that entirely for political reasons the Palestinian people have endured suffering and oppression not so much at Israel's hands but rather at the hands of their fellow Arabs and their own leadership. When Israeli actions have harmed the Palestinian populace they were almost always as a result of the need to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian terrorist attacks.

What is truly new is the significant number of Arab and even Palestinian writers and commentators who are suddenly seeing Palestinian suffering in the same way or perhaps are finally publicly willing to admit that it really isn't all Israel's fault. I will be making quite a number of postings featuring Arab and Palestinian voices on the subject of the exploitation of the Palestinian people in coming days.

Let me begin with someone who is well known to most people who have followed the conflict in the region in recent years. Saeb Erekat was the Palestinian negotiator during past peace talks and is a prominent Fatah member. Here is part of an interview he gave to Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Late Edition on June 17:I will tell you something, Wolf. I think -- there is a saying in my mind that this region has never missed an opportunity to exploit Palestinians without exploiting them. I really believe that we are being exploited. I really believe that is what happening in Nahr el-Bared in northern Lebanon, it is part of what is happening in Gaza, what is happening in the bigger picture in this region.

Now, Wolf, do I have evidence to refer to this country or to this group or that? No, I don't. But I know when I see the streets of Gaza, when I see these gunmen, when I see these hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when President Abbas could not pay salaries for our police forces, when our police forces did not have bullets or guns to maintain the rule of law and public order, where did these hundreds of millions of dollars, where did these guns and arms and state-of-art machine guns and heavy equipment come from?

I don't have any evidence, and without evidence, I will not name anybody. But all I can tell you, Gaza is very -- the poorest area on Earth. Gaza doesn't have the means for these hundreds of millions of dollars and these weapons and equipment.

And I believe what is happening in this region is being now played in the streets of Gaza and the streets of Nahr el-Bared in my name, in the name of the Palestinians. We are being exploited again.
I'll say what Mr. Erekat was unwilling to say: Iran and Syria, plus radical jihadists and Islamists, both home grown and foreign. That's who is exploiting and oppressing the Palestinians this time. Others in the Arab world have done the same when it was convenient for them with the Palestinians as the perpetual victims for nearly 60 years.

It is easy for Israel's detractors to dismiss me as a Zionist, as the daughter of an Israeli, as a biased voice. How do you dismiss Saeb Erekat, an ardent Palestinian nationalist who has argued the Palestinian cause for years, and others like him? I don't think you can.

The question that remains is whether or not this sort of change of Arab perspective will last. If not then we're back at square one. If so then this is a true sea change in Arab thinking . It offers the real possibility of Arabs and Israelis, specifically Palestinians and Israelis, finding common ground to stand together against a common enemy that threatens us both.

Am I dreaming? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Only time will tell.

Technorati Tags:

No comments: